St. Cyril : Tour of St. Cyril of Alexandria Church

Tour of St. Cyril of Alexandria Church

Of Note: This is not a virtual tour, so print out the guide below and make an actual visit to our church at 3854 Brighton Road, in Brighton Heights. Church is open for touring from 3:30 to 4:00 p.m. on Saturdays, and from 9:30 to 10:30 a.m. on Sundays.

1st Stop

Begin your tour on the sidewalk across Brighton Road and look over at the church.


Dedicated in 1954, it is the second church of the parish.  The first, opened in 1924, was a wooden structure that sat to the left rear of the current church and which was damaged twice by fire in its 30-year history.

The beautiful church in front of you represents Spanish-influenced Romanesque architecture with a Southwest mission style bell tower.  Both the buff clay brick and the Indiana limestone trim evoke mission churches.  Why was it designed in that style?  No documentation on the decision exists, but it was most likely a collaboration of Father Anthony Benedik, pastor of St. Cyril’s in 1954, and the architect, Bernard H. Lawson, 1898-1960.

Lawson was an architecture graduate of then-Carnegie Tech and in his early career was an associate of famed Pittsburgh architect, Henry Hornbostel, who designed parts of Carnegie Tech’s campus, parts of Pitt’s campus, the City-County Building, and Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Hall, to name a few.  Lawson himself helped design the Allegheny County Fairgrounds, including the famous round barn.

Lawson eventually became an associate of Landau Brothers Building Company in Pittsburgh, which was brought into the St. Cyril construction project through a friend of the owner, parishioner Jerry Ryan, a masonry contractor.

Landau Brothers built the church designed by Lawson.  Today, Landau is the Landau Building Company in the North Hills, a fifth-generation business of the Landau family.

2nd Stop

Now carefully cross the street and approach the massive oak doors.

The design and fabrication of most of the interior decoration of the church that you are about to see, including the stained glass windows, mosaics, custom woodwork, furniture, statuary, and lighting was done by John W. Winterich & Associates, Inc., of Cleveland, a studio responsible for the interiors of dozens of Pittsburgh churches, including St. Paul Cathedral in Oakland.

Over the years, the decoration was further enhanced by Nick Parrendo, a parishioner, renowned stained glass artist, and owner of Hunt Stained Glass Studio Inc. in Pittsburgh, whose artistry is only surpassed by his love of St. Cyril’s.  More about his specific contributions later.

3rd Stop

Enter the oak doors.  You are now in the vestibule.

FILE-160To your right, behind the wrought iron gate, is the original baptistry, in which devotional candles, statues of the Holy Family, and a statue of a 19th Century teenager share the space today.

The latter statue connects Italy, sainthood, and Brighton Heights in a surprising way.  It depicts Blessed Nunzio Sulprizio, a young man from Abruzzi, Italy, who was known throughout his town for his piety and devotion to the Blessed Mother, despite being mistreated by members of his family.  He died in 1836 after being injured while working at age 19 and was later declared “Venerable” by the Catholic Church—the first step toward sainthood.

Some 50 years ago, Delfina Cesarespada, a St. Cyril’s parishioner who lived on Stanford Road, a few blocks from the church, saw a picture of Nunzio and then, she said, had a vision of him while she was under anesthesia for surgery.  From that time on, she devoted herself to promoting his sainthood.  In 1963, the Vatican beatified Nunzio, moving him a step closer to sainthood.

Delfina and her husband, Francesco, built a shrine to Nunzio in their front yard and for many years welcomed believers from around the world.

After their deaths, their son, Anthony, asked St. Cyril’s to house the statue from the shrine in the church, where it has stood since 2006.

Now look toward the interior oak doors and note our “crying rooms” on either side where parents with infants can conveniently hear Mass.  Of course, infants are welcomed inside the church proper, but they have to promise to cry only during the sermon.

4th Stop

Go through the doors and enter the nave, or central part, of the church.

The daylight filtered through the original 24 stained glass windows is both colorful and serene.

The original windows were made mostly of imported antique glass, meaning it was hand blown and not machine rolled, and were designed in 1954 by Frank Marchione, head designer for Winterich’s of Cleveland.  The exterior door lights of the church and seven additional windows in the sacristy, behind the altar, were added by Nick Parrendo.

But let’s tour the windows after a trip to the altar.

5th Stop

Walk down the long center aisle where more than 300 brides have floated under the 28-foot-high gabled ceiling to meet their match.

A series of receding walls lead your eyes to the main altar where the mensa, or table, against the rear wall is a solid block of Botticino marble from the hills of Breschia, Italy.  This same marble graces many monumental buildings in the world, including the Palace of Justice in Rome and Grand Central Station in New York City.  Two columns of Rosso Verona marble support the rear altar table.  Between them is a delicate marble mosaic of a small lamb, symbol of the Redeemer. A front altar table was added after the Second Vatican Council in the 1960s so that the priest could face the congregation during Mass.  The marble of that new altar table and the supports are a perfect match for the original.

The great black cross behind the altar is made of Portoro Fina marble and supports an intricately carved image of the crucified Christ.

The red and gold marble mosaic behind the altar, showing St. Cyril venerating the Blessed Mother (inspired by Cyril’s scholarship in which he successfully argued that Mary was the Mother of God) was designed by Marchione, most likely fabricated in Italy (the records are lost), and shipped to Pittsburgh in sections, where Buck Yockel, a parishioner and tile-setter by trade, helped primary installers, Jerry White and Buzzy Schwartz, painstakingly assemble it on the wall using sand and cement. Buck is retired but is still a parishioner.

During certain liturgical seasons, you may also see colorful banners hanging alongside the main altar.  These symbolically tell the story of the seasons and were designed and painted on cloth by Nick Parrendo.

The side altars honoring the Blessed Mother, to the left, and St. Joseph, to the right, replicate the design of the main altar, with marble tables and mosaics.  The statues, like most of the sanctuary decoration, were made in Italy, probably in Bolzano province, under the direction of Winterich’s.

6th Stop

Now turn around and face the back of the church.  The choir gallery extends across the entire 42 feet width of the church and can accommodate 40 persons.

The far wall of the choir gallery includes four stained glass windows of the Evangelists—Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.  To their right, you’ll find a window with the coat of arms of Pope Pius XII, the pontiff when the church was built.  To their left is the coat of arms of Bishop John F. Dearden, bishop of Pittsburgh at the time.

7th Stop

Begin to walk slowly toward the back of the church now, stopping to look at the windows opposite each other on the right and left.

First window, right:  St. Anthony of Padua (1195-1231), a theologian and scholar, known for his brilliant preaching.  An aristocrat by birth, he became a special advocate for the poor.  His appearance on the window may have been a tribute to Father Anthony Benedik, pastor of St. Cyril’s at the time and soon to be Monsignor Benedik.  But this is speculation.

First window, left:  St. Pius X (1835-1914), only the second pope since the 13th Century to be canonized, which occurred in 1954, the year the church was dedicated.

Second window, right:  St. Philip, the apostle.  He told Jesus that “two hundred silver pieces could not buy enough” to feed the 5,000 who ultimately benefited from the miracle of the loaves and fish.

Second window, left: St. Peter, the apostle. To him Jesus gave the keys to the kingdom and said:  “Thou art Peter and upon this rock I will build my church.”

Third window, right:  St. Bartholomew, the apostle who was an intimate friend of Christ.

Third window, left:  St. Andrew, brother of Simon Peter, who fished with Peter and was there when their nets were miraculously filled.

Fourth window, right:  St. Simon, the apostle, known as the zealot.

FILE-125Fourth window, left:  St. James the Greater, son of Zebedee and apostle who witnessed the raising of Jarius’ daughter, along with Peter and John.

Fifth window, right:  St. Matthias, replaced Judas as one of the apostles.

Fifth window, left:  St. Thomas, the apostle who doubted Jesus’ return to them after the resurrection.

Sixth window, right:  St. Paul of Tarsus, the teacher and preacher to the Gentiles, whose conversion to Christianity occurred after a vision on the road to Damascus.

Sixth window, left:  St. James the Less, apostle and son of Alphaeus, believed to be the first bishop of the Syrian church, although not much is known about him.

Seventh window, right:  St. Barnabas, credited with enlisting Paul of Tarsus into the ministry.  He accompanies Paul on his journey to the Gentiles.

Seventh window, left:  St. Jude, also known as Thaddeus, was an apostle and the brother of James.  He asked Jesus, just after the Last Supper, why He would not manifest Himself to the whole world.

So now you’ve seen the main windows in the nave up close. If you’ve been paying attention (and we know you have), you’ll count among them 10 Apostles, in addition to Paul and Barnabas, often called Apostles to the Gentiles, but not technically among the 12, a 19th Century pope and a 13th Century saint.  Where are the other two Apostles?

Of course.  They’re in the choir loft.  Two of the evangelists on windows there—St. John and St. Matthew—were also among Jesus’ 12 apostles.

8th Stop

Before exiting the church to walk around the outside, say a prayer for our parish and note the stained glass window in the baptistry, depicting, of course, St. John the Baptist.  On the opposite side, in the restroom, is a window of St. Gabriel the Archangel.

Not to be missed in the stairwell to the left is a beautiful window depicting carpenter tools and symbolizing St. Joseph.

In the foyer to the right (where the lift to Axmacher Hall is located) is a window of a fleur-de-lis,a stylized lily that is a symbol of the Blessed Virgin Mary, as are the letters “MA DI,” standing for “Mater Dei,” a declaration of the belief that Mary was indeed the mother of God.  A belief argued and affirmed by St. Cyril in Alexandria.  A fitting way to end your interior tour.

But you’re not done yet.

9th Stop

Once outside on the step, note the window light of the main doors.  Created by Nick Parrendo in 1981, the stylized crown on the right symbolizes the Kingdom of God.  The lamp on the left symbolizes wisdom.

Now walk right toward the back of the church.  Look at the color of the glass in the first side door.  Hold that thought.  Keep walking.

Note the color of the glass in the second side door.  Keep walking.

At the back of the church look at the seven stained glass windows that run the width.  These are the windows recently created by Parrendo and depict the seven sacraments.  From left to right:  Baptism, Confirmation, Reconciliation, Eucharist, Anointing of the Sick, Ordination, and Marriage. 

Now walk right toward the front of the church.  Note the color of the glass in the next side door.  Keep walking.

Note the color in the last side door.

What have you noticed about the side doors?

Correct, the colors are the colors of the world’s races:  Brown, yellow, red, and white.  Meaning all are welcomed at St. Cyril of Alexandria Church in Brighton Heights.  It’s in our mission statement, in our hearts, and on our doors. 


Your tour has ended.  Come back and stay awhile.